DECEMBER ZUIHITSU It is easier to awaken in the dark of winter. The body opens slowly, warms slowly with Qi Gong practice, with hot coffee. The summer body is restless, quick, easily exhausted. Why must my study be the coldest room in the house? From the windows I watch bare ash trees and brushy hemlock trees moving slightly in the North wind, dark against a silver sky. Sometimes a feeling of desperation. The weather, the news. The way my hips still hurt. Driving into town we pass a herd of young horses racing across a frosty pasture. We agree that it must be a wonderful thing to be a young horse on a cold morning. On weekends, the woman who calls herself The Lady From the Gravel Company sells Christmas trees for her son who is out West hunting deer. She hopes he doesn’t get one, she told me, because already she has two deer and a bear in her freezer. The dog wants to eat her scraps on the living room carpet. The old cat wants the young cat’s food. The young cat wants the old cat’s food. My husband wants cooked chicken thighs. I want Rasta Pasta. At supper, I find the jalapeño pepper that had disappeared into the stew. Water does not put out that kind of fire. Strange bedside fellows: Neil Gaiman and Barbara Pym. I expect she could write about him: a mysterious man with tousled hair, much admired by excellent women. I cannot imagine what he could write about her. The dog must go out in the dark again to see if the fiend who hides under the steps is still hiding under the steps and to see if every deer track down the driveway was made by the same deer. I must go out with her to see the moon and to listen for the owl who sits in the oak tree behind the house.
Tag Archives: dogs
Every day I walk with the yellow dog who understands human language but can not yet speak. Every day, or nearly every day, we saw the hawk in the dead elm trees between the hay fields or on the power line. In early spring, two hawks circled the fields. In late summer, one young hawk called hunger from the elms while one adult watched from the wire. The dog was disturbed by the hawk’s wheeling or calling, and she raised the orange ridge on her back and growled and barked. And in November, when the hay in the fields was cut short and the living oaks and the dead elms stood as outlines against the sky, on a November morning when the yellow dog and I walked down the road with the mountains on the east and the hills on the west, I found the hawk on the ground, beneath the wire, not far from the elms. The hawk’s red tail was spread, the dark and speckled wings were folded, claws curled, the sharp eyes flat, the neck broken. What shall we do? I cried, and the yellow dog answered. —Carry the hawk to the row of elms and lay it down there. And weep awhile, and I will weep with you. But only for awhile, for you shall see.— So I lifted the hawk and carried it close to my heart and I walked with the dog to where the grasses and goldenrod stalks grew tall under the trees. And there I placed the hawk. And the dog said —Good—. And for awhile we wept. And that night, the hawk came to me while I slept. Her red tail was spread acorss the Earth and her wings opened east and west as far as I could see. Her great head touched the sun. And she spoke. —You see, she said, who I am. Now you see. Your eyes open to my flight, your ears open to my cry, your heart open to my life.— And with a shout the hawk rose up, then up, beyond the sun. And when I woke, the yellow dog was curled beside me and looked at me through her brown eyes, and said —Yes. That’s how it is.—
words: Zuihitsu for the 51st Day
Zuihitsu for the 51st Day
1. I have never paced when I am in distress. I stand, rooted, staring, generally out the kitchen window at whatever birds I can notice eating the suet that we hang in little wire baskets from the canopy supports on the deck. This morning, I saw a pair of white-throated sparrows and a pair of catbirds and a pair of cardinals and a single male downy woodpecker.
2. The route of my morning walk is flat for awhile, then slopes gently downhill to a worn-out barn on the brink of a gully. Jim keeps old-fashioned electric Christmas candles in the barn windows. The road then slants uphill until on the left there is an unpaved side road going farther up past an old hillfarm cemetery before connecting back to a main road. My road flattens out again to a swamp where grackles and red-winged black birds and swamp sparrows are nesting now.
3. Our granddaughter extended her hand toward the web camera to show us a book. She recited Robert Lewis Stevenson’s “The Swing Song” for me. My mother, for whom she is named, taught it to me when I was three, and our son taught it to our grandchildren.
4. I wish I could come up with an idea for a big project: a play, or a series of poems. I simply don’t have enough energy to extend myself much beyond the usual “poem a day,” and even those are getting sillier.
5. Nettles are creeping down the driveway from the little patch I planted ten years ago so I could harvest them for tea. I don’t harvest them. I’m trying to pull them up by the roots so they won’t take over the whole place. “Remember . . /the nettles that methodically overgrow /the abandoned homes of exiles.” (Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanaugh)
6. I told our grandson I heard a towhee this morning. Our son asked him if he remembered what they say. “Drink your tee hee hee hee,” he answered, smiling his slanty little smile.
7. My husband is extending his trip out into the world today—not just the usual route to the grocery store and home again, but a side trip to the pharmacy to get medicine for the cat’s hair loss and more milk thistle and vitamin D for us. He brought two pairs of gloves.
8. Linda emailed a poem to me, “the one she’s been waiting for,” she said. Nadine Anne Hura wrote it, “for Papatuanuku, Mother Earth.” She calls on the Mother to “Breathe easy and settle,” and tells her “We’ll stop, we’ll cease/We’ll slow down and stay home” It would be a change of pace—hell, it would be a change of everything these days to have a president who shares poetry with us, or who even reads poetry. Or anything, for that matter.
9. Just after sunset, I took Julie down the driveway as usual. It was clear and pleasant, so I did not hurry, but strolled along at her doggy pace. Watching her check the smells—deer? rabbits? that bear our neighbor saw?—along the way puts a fresh slant on things.
A zuihitsu is a Japanese form, consisting of loosely connected fragments written mostly in response to the writer’s surroundings. The word means “follow the brushstroke.” For more see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pillow_Book
~That Bluebird Fairy is back
Oh, how the edges are odd!
Bread from white flour,
coffee carefully measured.
Opera in the afternoons.
Friends on the screen.
Walking on the other side.
Stop, says the sage, and I stop
in the driveway when the dog
stops to pee. Before sunrise:
a robin is singing, a cardinal,
a dove. Look: the bare trees
against a gray sky. The house
with her red roof, smoke rising
from the chimney, a light
shining in the kitchen window.
(Brother David Steindl-Rast recommends practicing “Stop. Look. Go” as a way of remembering to be grateful.)
~after Marc Chagall
His mouth is open, mid-sentence.
The soles of his shoes are yellow,
his pants are green, his jacket
is blue. The figure behind the swing
is a brown blur. The swing
is in mid-arc, coming toward
the artist. In the ether
above the child, three cats
and a dog named Crazy
who is brown as Earth
are springing into being.
Crazy went away once
for a fortnight. When he got home,
he fell asleep at once. The animals
came with the swinging child
when he drove from California
to Vermont in one day. The cats
are named Thak, Willy, and Quilly.
They all died before you were born.
APRIL 10, 2019: REPORT
April 19, 2019: REPORT
Here in Vermont, for instance, it’s Spring.
A robin sings in the scraggly pines
next to the drive. The sun rises through deep
pink cloud, so rain coming. Daffodil spikes,
free at last from the long weight
of snow, have pushed up through the mass of flat
leaves out by the mailbox.The dog says
a rabbit, or something, under the yews.
The house smells like fresh coffee. The ink flows
easy, like the inconsequential
run-off brook through the woods beside the house.
The house still stands.
THE DOG OF CHAUVET CAVE
THE DOG OF CHAUVET CAVE
Painted in yellow ochre,
her black eyes shine with calcite.
Her teats are distended with milk,
her curved tail suggests motion.
You wouldn’t notice her.
Indeed, she was not noticed
for years since she is small,
overshadowed by the horses,
the lions and bulls;
since she was not officially domestic
for another twenty thousand years.
Beneath her, in the dust,
a fragment of mammoth bone.
Painted above her head,
a single handprint,
again in the yellow.
A small hand, carefully placed,
poised as if to caress.
Winter Prompts #1: Write a Proverb
Proverbs 31 King James Version (KJV)
10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.
This woman is worth her weight in rubies, all right—
she rises while it is yet night and makes the coffee,
feeds the cats and gives them medicines.
No matter how cold, she takes the dog out in the snow.
She sits then, or tries to, while her husband sleeps,
and she attempts to write and meditate.
The white cat climbs on her desk past the candle
trying to catch his tail on fire, and settles down
on her lap. The dog yelps to go out again
because the rabbits have come to feed.
Her children—her child, really, since she has
just the one—does not rise up to call her blessed.
No one rises up before she does, to call her
blessed, or anything else, for that matter.
January 20, 2018
The Spring St. Poets have decided to use prompts as a way of getting ready for a reading we’re doing in late February. This one is rather raw, to put it mildly.
What is this life if busy as hell
We have no time to sit and smell?
No time to sit beside the bogs
And smell as long as cats or dogs,
No time to scent when fields we pass
Where some one stopped to drag his ass,
No time to find, as though alone,
Where someone chucked a chicken bone,
No time to ponder every track
Of each deer passing onward, back,
To use your nose to best avail
To search the neighbor’s garbage pail,
No time to sit and contemplate
What each and every neighbor ate.
A poor life this, if busy as hell
We have no time to sit and smell.
I wrote this somewhat iffy poem ages ago—a parody of one of my favorite old poems, “Leisure,” by William Henry Davies— when we had an airedale. We have another dog now, and it still applies.
An old one, written back when we had the first airedale, who died in 1996.
Civilization will not allow for instinct:
no dinners of raw mice,
no clawing the eyes of enemies,
or defecating in the public streets.
Often, the dog scenting dog, coyote, fox
instructive, on a tuft of grass–
will turn against my call, ponder, consider,
squat to make her mark.
One morning, as I walked
between red cedars, young pines,
stooped to move between low branches,
to follow a mossy path worn deep by wild feet,
I felt an insistent urge to pee.
So there it was:
a seizure by immediate beauty
–light filtered through dark pines–
compelling me to say in the simplest way I could,
my animal way,
I was here.
This place is mine.